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The Rosett Report

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, recently gave an interview to a British newspaper, The Guardian, in which she criticized tax dodgers in Greece. Then Lagarde became a target of criticism herself, when The Guardian reported on Tuesday that as head of the IMF she paid no taxes on her yearly salary of $467,940, or her accompanying annual allowance of $83,760.

The next day, CNBC rushed to Lagarde’s defense, with an article pointing out that Lagarde’s tax-exempt status is standard for employees of the United Nations family of organizations, which includes the IMF. Quoting the Vienna Convention on the immunities of “diplomatic agents,” CNBC noted that, like her predecessor, Lagarde was merely enjoying privileges that were hers by right:

“Protest against her, and you protest against thousands of UN employees throughout the years.”

Well, come to think of it, what a great idea!

Diplomatic immunities have their place. But they derive from an earlier age of the world, when diplomats concerned themselves chiefly with representing their own countries, and there was no vast family of globe-girdling multilateral organizations trying to cook up rules for all, while draped in diplomatic privileges. Today, in the age of the UN alphabet soup, and a global hive of “international civil servants” plotting 5 and 10 and 15 and 50 year plans for the planet, diplomatic immunities have come to provide cover for a growing elite bureaucracy — the 21st century version of the old Soviet nomenklatura, communism’s administrative patrons, who dished out to the peons the stifling rules from which they themselves were substantially exempt.

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Surely even the United Nations would hesitate over celebrating Zimbabwe’s longtime despot, Robert Mugabe, as a “leader” of any kind?

That’s why, in my previous post, I hesitated to assume the accuracy of a dispatch in the Zimbabwe Herald that the UN World Tourism Organization is appointing Mugabe as one of its “international tourism ambassadors.”

My apologies for doubting the Herald, which, as it turns out, was correct in its report. I sent a query to the UNWTO’s “Principal Media Officer,” as listed on the UNWTO web site, and received confirmation, by email, that the UNWTO is indeed celebrating Mugabe, as part of its “Leaders for Tourism Campaign.” Yes, the UNWTO’s Jordanian secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, will be visiting southern Africa, reportedly this Monday (that’s according to the Herald — the UNWTO did not provide a date) to dignify Mugabe, along with Zambia’s President Michael Sata, as UNWTO “leaders.”

The reason Rifai is going to such lengths, explains the UNWTO press office, is that Zimbabwe and Zambia will be co-hosting the UNWTO’s General Assembly next year, at Victoria Falls. Quite likely that augurs a pleasant excursion for the eminences and UNWTO staff who will be attending the UNWTO’s 2013 General Assembly, plus plenty of diplomatic glad-handing for co-host Mugabe.

Will the UNWTO’s festivities promote better times for the people of Zimbabwe — battered and impoverished  as they are, due to decades of Mugabe’s thuggish rule? Well, the UNWTO is a UN organization that includes North Korea and Syria, as well as Zimbabwe, among its members; and seated on its 32-member governing board are such tourism-challenged regimes as those of Zimbabe, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Don’t get your hopes up.

Robert Mugabe, UN Tourism Ambassador?

May 22nd, 2012 - 4:02 pm

Surely they’re kidding….or are they?

From Zimbabwe comes a report that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is appointing Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a UN international tourism ambassador, in recognition of all he’s done to promote and develop — yes — tourism. According to the Zimbabwe Herald, this is an honor Mugabe will share with Zambia’s President, Michael Sata, because “The two leaders have shown that tourism is central to the development of Africa by naming it as one of the four pillars of economic development.”

One might have supposed that the prime pillar of African development would be to dispense with rulers such as Mugabe, who during more than three decades in power has reduced Zimbabwe from a bread basket of southern Africa to a basket case. But reportedly he is due to sign a “golden book of tourism” on May 28th, in a ceremony to be witnessed by the Jordanian head of the UNWTO, Talib Rifai.

On the UNWTO site I have so far found no mention of this honor being conferred on Mugabe. Neither do I find any denial of this report. The whole thing needs checking with the UNWTO, and I’ve just sent them a query about it. But while we await word of what’s really going on here, I’ll observe that it would be a lot easier to dismiss this sort of story out of hand, had the UN in previous years refrained from such travesties as tapping Mugabe’s regime  to head (I am not making this up) the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, or appointing a daughter of Libya’s late tyrant Muammar Qaddafi as a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Program. Perhaps the report of Robert Mugabe, UN tourism ambassador, is a complete misunderstanding, and the UNWTO would not dream of disgracing itself this way? We shall see…

Will Vogue Magazine Ever Learn?

May 14th, 2012 - 5:50 pm

You might suppose that Vogue magazine would have learned to be a lot more careful about its cover stories, after the landmark outrage of its February, 2011 cover spread lauding Syria’s Asma al-Assad, wife of the dictator.

Not quite.

Who can forget that cover story? Profiling Asma as “A Rose in the Desert,” writer Joan Juliet Buck gushed on and on about Asma, first lady of Syria: “glamorous, young and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” Vogue treated its readers to a tour of Asma’s “wildly democratic” life with her husband, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and described Asma as leading a down-home life of style and good works, answering the door of the presidential residence herself, “in jeans and old suede stilleto boots,” and rushing around, “breezy, conspiratorial and fun,” accessorized with little more than her Chanel agates and a Syrian-silk Louboutin handbag.

It was all about rebranding Syria’s regime as open, modern, classy. Asma, according to Vogue, was on a campaign to promote what she called Syria’s “brand essence.”

The month after Vogue ran that cover story, Syria’s people rose in open protest against the Assad regime — protest that has now gone on for 14 months, to which the regime has responded with hideous violence, shelling, shooting, jailing, and torturing, with a death toll now topping 10,000. During these horrors, as we now know from leaked emails, Asma whiled away some of her time with high-end online shopping.

Vogue initially defended its Asma cover story; then — as the carnage in Syria kept making headlines — scrubbed the piece from its web site.

Now, in a more subtle manner, comes another Vogue exercise in branding — this one featuring United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the May cover of Italian Vogue. In this case, unlike that of Syria’s regime, there is at least some reasonable justification for the advertised aim — which is “rebranding Africa.” Reportedly, L’Uomo Vogue is trying to create a better image for Africa’s more successful ventures, calling attention in an accompanying press release to “a positive side to the continent.”

Fair enough. But in that case, why on earth is Ban Ki-Moon the cover celebrity for this issue focused on the better side of Africa? In an article on this latest bout of Vogue creativity, the Guardian suggests that Ban is such a big draw — interviewed by Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani — that his starring appearance suggests Vogue is serious about giving Africa a boost.

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The UN and the Terrorism Trade

May 13th, 2012 - 4:02 am

Compensation of victims of terrorism sounds like a good idea. But is this something the United Nations should be involved with?

Fresh from the Guardian newspaper comes a dispatch headlined “UN moves to compensate the victims of terror: Report will recommend far-reaching changes to rebalance international law in favor of those who have suffered.”

The report in question, details of which have apparently leaked to the British press, is the work of the UN’s special rapporteur for counter-terrorim and human rights, British lawyer Ben Emmerson. In it, according to the Guardian, Emmerson proposes a global overhaul of insurance policies, to provide for compensation to victims and next of kin, in the event of terrorist attacks. This coverage would affect everything from travel to medical to life insurance, including “as appropriate, restitution, compensation and rehabilitation.” The Guardian article notes that this report, if accepted by the relevant UN bodies, would entail a system in which all UN member states would adopt a uniform set of standards for compensating victims of terrorism.

There’s plenty to be said for the idea that justice should be done. In this regard the Guardian cites the case of a British citizen, Will Pike, wounded in the 2008  Islamist terrorist attack on Mumbai.

But the prospect of the UN hashing out such a system is not one that augurs justice. Emmerson, as rapporteur, works under the aegis of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. His report is due to be presented to the Human Rights Council on June 20, and  then to the General Assembly in New York, on June 28th.

What’s wrong with that? Well, for starters, there’s the question of how the UN defines terrorism, which at the moment it doesn’t do at all. The UN has yet to produce a comprehensive definition of terrorism — the sticking point being that some member states prefer a definition that would excuse the likes of Hamas or Hezbollah terrorists as being not terrorists at all, but “freedom fighters.”

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Ever ready to meddle where it’s least needed, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently dispatched its special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, to inspect the United States.

Actually, it appears that Anaya himself is from the United States, or at least his biography says he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1983 and works as a professor of law at the University of Arizona. But for purposes of UN business, the UN tells us, Anaya was “invited” to come to America on his UN Mission — apparently the first time the UN has dispatched to the U.S. a special rapporteur of this kind —  by the Obama administration, along with “indigenous Nations and organizations.”

Anaya’s itinerary included twelve days visiting Washington, D.C., Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota and Oklahoma; talking with federal and state authorities, tribal leaders, NGOs and so forth. And on Friday he held a press conference in Washington charging “racism” and “discrimination” and inspiring the Guardian headline, “US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says the United Nations.” Or, as the BBC further expounds, “UN official calls for US return of native land” — including the Black Hills of South Dakota, site of Mount Rushmore.

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